Octuplets in critical condition as mother recovers


The world's only living set of octuplets remained in critical condition in Houston, Texas, yesterday as their mother recovered from surgery to stem internal bleeding. Doctors said Ms Nkem Chukwu (27), who became pregnant while undergoing fertility treatment, was "alert, happy and excited" following Monday's operation.

Seven of the babies remained on ventilators, and all eight continued to be fed intravenously.

"We are very optimistic about all eight babies and guardedly optimistic about the small baby," Dr Patti Savrick, the children's paediatrician, told CNN.

The smallest baby, a girl, Baby E, weighs just 320g (10.3 oz) and is described as small enough to fit in a woman's hand.

It was a "nice, quiet evening overnight," Dr Savrick added, and "all the babies are coming along nicely". Their Nigerian-born mother was "doing a lot better this morning", and was to be transferred out of intensive care.

Dr Brian Kirshon said she was in high spirits and very optimistic about the prospects for her children.

Ms Chukwu gave birth by Caesarean section to seven babies - five girls and two boys - at St Luke's on Sunday after giving birth to a girl on December 8th. Doctors at Texas Children's Hospital, where the babies were later transferred, said only the girl born two weeks ago was breathing without the help of a ventilator, and that two of the babies were receiving oxygen.

"All are being kept sleepy and quiet under a plastic blanket on a warming bed and have been treated [to help prevent] premature lung disease," a hospital statement said. "All eight infants are receiving intravenous sugar and fluids."

Dr Kirshon said it had been alarming to deal with multiple births, but would not comment on the ethics of fertility treatment. It was in the hands of reproductive endocrinologists, he said.

Offers of assistance began pouring in almost immediately after news of the births spread, said Ms Katy Gill, director of development at Texas Children's Hospital.

A Texas grocery chain has offered to donate a year's worth of groceries for the babies, while an anonymous nappy manufacturer has offered to provide nappies to the family for life, Ms Gill said.

The babies, identified only as babies A through H, are destined to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the first octuplets to be born alive.